REPORT: Community college to pay six figure settlement to prof whose test question offended a Muslim student
A professor who drew the ire of Muslim students by asking questions about Islamic terrorism on a quiz has accepted a $155,000 settlement from Scottsdale Community College.
The school apologized for violating the professor’s academic freedom, publicly denouncing him, and pressuring him to sign an apology letter.
Scottsdale Community College will pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit from a professor accused of anti-Muslim bias.
The college was of accused of prematurely criticizing political science professor Professor Nicholas Damask for including three quiz questions about Islamic extremism on a quiz. One asked, “Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law?”
The correct answer was “the Medina verses” in the Qur’an.
Student Mohamed Sabra, who is Muslim, complained, alleging that Damask's exam forced him to “either disavow his religion or be punished by getting the answers wrong on the quiz,” according to a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations against Scottsdale Community College and Damask last June, according to AZ Central.
The case was dismissed two months later by Judge Susan Brnovich, who ruled that Sabra was not asked to disavow his religion, but was “exposed to ‘attitudes and outlooks at odds’ with his own religious perspective.’”
But news of the episode had already sparked a wildfire of criticism of Scottsdale Community College on social media, prompting it to denounce Damask on May 1, 2020, and pressure him into signing an apology letter, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
School officials reversed their position after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to Scottsdale Community College and the Maricopa County Community College District Interim Chancellor Steven Gonzales apologized “for the uneven manner in which this was handled and for our lack of full consideration for our professor’s right of academic freedom," according to AZ Central.
On March 26, the Maricopa County Community College District announced that it had settled a lawsuit with Damask, who was represented by the firm Barton Mendez Soto.
“At Maricopa — we continually strive to better protect our faculty's right of academic freedom,” it said. “We support our community and will continue promoting a culture conducive to teaching and learning."
According to an open records request filed by the Phoenix New Times, the school paid Damask $155,000 — $30,000 of which covered legal fees. In return, Damask will drop his lawsuit against the school’s administration.
FIRE staff attorney Katlyn Patton told Campus Reform that she is “happy to see the Maricopa County Community College District take some financial responsibility for violating faculty rights.”
“This could certainly send a signal to other institutions that failing to protect faculty members' expressive rights comes with a cost,” she said.
Campus Reform reached out to Damask for more information; this article will be updated accordingly.
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